Did Marriott and Hilton Strikes Impact Online Bookings?
Over the last 3 to 4 months, if you stayed at a Marriott or Hilton brand hotel, you may have seen fewer staff inside the hotel surrounding guest services such as housekeeping, greeting, cooking, waiting and serving. The missing staff were not far away, a good number could be seen and heard outside hotels picketing with bells, whistles, and chants.
In several cities, thousands of miles apart in some cases, the staff at both Marriott and Hilton hotels went on strike almost collectively. Five of the top US cities impacted by the strikes—Oahu and Maui (on strike Oct. 8—Nov. 27), San Francisco (on strike Oct. 4—Dec. 3), Boston (on strike Oct. 3— Nov. 2), and San Diego (on strike Oct. 5–Nov. 12)—are also some of the most expensive places in the country to live. Cost of living in these locations are 10–25% higher than the national average, making it hard for residents to get by with only one job.
Hotel workers from Maui to Boston asked for a living wage and more say in automation and worker safety. In Chicago, Hilton workers were on strike throughout September 2018, negotiating for guaranteed healthcare through the winter when it’s possible to get laid off without health coverage.
Strikes and Bookings
Here at The Digital Consumer, we wanted to know if local action had impacted the hotel booking choices of consumers visiting the striking cities.
Using the transaction data collected using Jumpshot’s Insights tool and data feeds, we mapped the 9 weeks of strikes, from October 2018–December 2018 and the corresponding time period for 2017. We compared the data for bookings on Marriott’s website against competitor Hilton, also affected by strikes.
Here’s what we found over the time period investigated:
- Both Marriott and Hilton saw a decrease in year-over-year bookings in cities that were not experiencing a Marriott strike
- Hilton bookings dropped roughly 31%
- Marriott bookings dipped approximately 13%
This suggests that while booking volume was lower in 2018 than 2017, this decrease was not directly related to the strikes.
Personal bookings don’t directly indicate individuals taking their business elsewhere; however, larger organizations did terminate reservations. Both Hyatt and Marriott suffered from strike-related conference cancellations.
Big Cities, Big Costs
In cities where Marriott workers were on strike, we observed that:
- Marriott bookings were up 12% year-over-year
- Hilton bookings slipped 16% below 2017 numbers
At the end of the day, while the strikes may have disturbed guests’ stays and disrupted the workflow for hotel management. High costs and soaring demands for hotels in large, expensive cities may have meant customers opted for the affordable Marriott over other luxury brands, despite the strikes.
Keeping it Local
The Marriott strikes seem to have been a local burden. There’s a good chance that guests weren’t impacted by the strikes until they arrived at their hotel. Few people sought out information about the strikes during their hotel booking process, many being enticed by the low rates for rooms.
Daily “Marriott Strikes” search queries tapered off as time went on. The following trend line shows that search volume, often an indication of “non-local” interest, was never that high and eventually died down.
Lack of Guest Awareness?
The lack of noticeable negative effects on bookings are likely a combination of Marriott clients not only being unaware of the strikes but also perhaps showing a certain apathy and indifference towards a local issue they might not relate to.
There’s a high demand for lodging in the striking cities, and a lack of easily accessible and/or affordable alternatives. Whether traveling for work or leisure, customers chose the most affordable option.